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Tag: "labor"

Uber: “Maximum Evil Is Our Goal”

[ 27 ] February 10, 2017 |

Uber

Oh Uber. Whenever it comes up in the news, you know it’s going to be because they are doing something awful again.

Late last month, Uber sued the city of Seattle, challenging the city’s authority to implement a landmark law allowing drivers in the gig economy to unionize. It was an opening shot in what is likely to be a long and costly legal battle.

Uber’s legal challenge comes at an awkward time for the ride-hailing juggernaut. The company recently named 2017 “the year of the driver” and has said it will devote energy and resources to improving its relationship with the hundreds of thousands of people who drive on its platform. But the company’s bungled response to a taxi strike during the recent JFK protests led to a grassroots #DeleteUber campaign that saw 200,000 riders canceling their accounts. This latest situation in Seattle may further complicate Uber’s attempts to reverse the negative effects of that campaign.

After its passage in December 2015, Uber and Lyft declined to challenge it outright, instead supporting a lawsuit brought by the pro-business, anti-union US Chamber of Commerce. But then in August, a judge tossed the chamber’s lawsuit, calling it premature until the city moved forward with implementation.

That implementation began in December, when Seattle’s department of Finance and Administrative Services published rules online that cover issues like which drivers get to unionize, working conditions subject to bargaining, and how an organization gets certified to represent drivers exclusively.

Shortly thereafter, Uber filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s rulemaking authority, calling it “arbitrary and capricious” and inconsistent with “fundamental labor laws,” according to court documents. “The City must follow a lawful rulemaking process and adopt rules which properly consider the facts and circumstances of drivers and the industry, and labor law precedent,” Uber argues in the suit.

LGM has exclusive live coverage of Uber headquarters.

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Talking About Buy American Campaigns

[ 144 ] February 9, 2017 |

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One of Trump’s strongest appeals to the white working class is his aggressive economic nationalist rhetoric that seeks to punish other nations for sending goods to the United States instead of having them made here. Trump doesn’t actually care about any of this of course. He pals around with capitalists, the very people who are responsible for this. He tweets at union leaders when called out on his actions, blaming them for the loss of jobs. But it doesn’t really matter to a lot of these workers. Finally, someone is speaking their language. And when combined with other forms of white resentment, this is very powerful for large swaths of the white working class. Even if he fails to bring the jobs back (and of course he will fail because that’s not actually his goal), for white people who remember buying a new car every 3 years, they don’t believe that Democratic politicians are any better, even if they provide them with better health care options and want to save their Social Security. After all, they see those things, especially the older retirement-based benefits, as their rights as working Americans, not gifts from liberal Democrats.

Moreover, it’s simply reasonable industrial policy to create employment in industrial jobs in the United States. It’s necessary on a number of levels. First, it’s smart politics. Second, it stabilizes areas in decline by attempting to build jobs in struggling areas. Third, we have to provide a dignified life with good-paying jobs for working class people of all races. We can’t simply say, “Automation is inevitable. Tough luck. Here’s a little money to get some education to do some other job that will pay not very much, 52 year old worker with maybe a high school diploma.” This is a recipe for social disaster, as we are already seeing with the 2016 election and its horrifying aftermath. Moreover, there are good reasons to produce goods in the United States. The access to clean energy is one of them. If we want to create industrial policy that is going to be useful in mitigating climate change, then considering the whole cost of a project, including its climate costs, may well be a really good reason to produce goods in the United States, even if that costs more up front. Moreover, there are good reasons to not support or allow the labor and environmental exploitation of the world’s poor, and I have long called for international courts and national laws to regulate this, taking away some of the incentive for capital mobility.

One of the areas undergoing a lot of outsourcing right now is industrial food production. Companies like Mondelez, which sounds like a fancy French company but is actually just a renamed Kraft, bought up Nabisco at some point. It has now moved Oreo production out of Chicago to Mexico. The Nabisco workers are doing a national tour, talking to college campuses and other workers, about their plight. These are workers who are suffering. Their good jobs are gone and they don’t have any other options. As part of this, they have produced an animation explaining their position in a very simple way. It’s worth your time.

Unfortunately, this video and therefore the workers’ message, is a little bit racist. It starts out OK, playing on a very important point–that Nabisco factories in Mexico pay workers very little and have lax regulatory standards. These are good reasons to say, I don’t want my cookies exploiting others. But it’s a feint. The rest of the video doesn’t care one whit about the Mexican workers. Talking about bad regulatory standards and low wages is an excuse to say instead that we as Americans should want our products made in the United States. It says you should go into the grocery store, find products with Made in Mexico labels, and confront store manages to tell them you don’t want those products. And that’s a level of economic nationalism I’m not real comfortable with. But trying to thread a needle of wanting products made ethically no matter where they come from is going to be a hard sell to these workers. For them, it’s not just about saving their own jobs, it’s about AMERICA! And given that we on the left don’t really have an answer to their particular problems, you can see the appeal Trump would have to the white workers in these plants, as well as of course why black and Latino workers would be deeply disturbed by that appeal. In a global era, the answer to our problems is not AMERICA!, it’s ethical production that raises standards around the world while also seeking to keep good union jobs in the United States. But given how hard it is to articulate precisely how that happens, good luck communicating that to everyday workers. And good luck getting the white everyday workers to think the Democratic Party has an answer to their problems.

Life Under Puzder

[ 196 ] February 8, 2017 |

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I won’t attack Andy Puzder for hiring an undocumented worker to clean his house, but I sure will attack for everything else, including how he treats his own workers.

In 1984, I was hired as a cashier at Hardee’s in Columbia, S.C., making $4.25 an hour. By 2005, 21 years later, my pay was only at $8 an hour. That’s a $3.75 raise for a lifetime of work. Adjusted for inflation, it’s only a 2-cent raise.

Andrew Puzder, the chief executive since 2000 of CKE — which owns Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr., and other fast-food companies — is now in line to become the country’s next labor secretary. The headlines ponder what this may mean for working people in America, but I already know.

I already know what Trump/Puzder economics look like because I’m living it every day. Despite giving everything I had to Puzder’s company for 21 years, I left without a penny of savings, with no health care and no pension. Now, while I live in poverty, Trump, who promised to fix the rigged economy, has chosen for labor secretary someone who wants to rig it up even more. He’s chosen the chief executive of a company who recently made more than $10 million in a year, while I’m scraping by on Supplemental Security payments.

When I began at Hardee’s, I was hopeful. I liked the work and received a promotion to shift manager after only a month. But the pay remained low, and even with my husband’s salary as the head cook at Fort Jackson, we relied on food stamps and Medicaid. We were two full-time-employed adults; we shouldn’t have had to turn to the government, but we had kids to raise, and so we were left with no other choice.

Low pay wasn’t the only reason my family struggled: It was the lack of benefits and respect, too. I remember once my manager came to my house on a day off and demanded I go into work. I remember trudging through Hurricane Katrina to get to the store. I remember being denied a raise multiple times.

In 2005, I was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had to stop working. After more than two decades at Hardee’s, I left without any savings, a 401(k), pension or health benefits. That’s Puzder’s America.

But hey, fast food workers are all 16 year old kids in their first job and we don’t need to worry about paying them a living wage, right? It doesn’t matter I guess since Puzder will lead us on our Great Leap Forward of Automation in the next four years. Massive unemployment and desperate poverty won’t just be the fate of fast food workers anymore! The New Gilded Age is a glorious time!

The End of Unions, A Continuing Series

[ 45 ] February 8, 2017 |

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Iowa is going full Wisconsin to destroy its public sector unions by outlawing most parts of collective bargaining. Cops excepted of course.

“I think it’s an extremely bold proposal,” said Drew Klein, director of the Iowa chapter of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity. “When you really start to dig into the substance of this bill, it makes a number of really important changes. It does so in a common sense way. It does so while protecting our government services but also making sure that we’re protecting budgets at the state and local level as well.”

The changes would remove health insurance from mandatory contract negotiations for most public-sector union workers, and it would limit mandatory negotiations only to base wages, cutting out discussions over things like insurance, evaluation procedures and seniority-related benefits. Other changes are proposed to the arbitration and certification process for unions.

“The only thing that we will be able to is bargain over is wages. Nothing else.” said Danny Homan, president of Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents 40,000 Iowa public employees. “Wages are not the most important thing that we want to bargain over. It is health insurance, layoffs, transfers … It’s all those other elements in the contract.”

Tammy Wawro, president of the Iowa State Education Association, which represents 34,000 Iowa school employees, described the legislation as “punitive” and lacking any respect for public employees.

“I am beyond angry today,” she said. “I am absolutely mortified.”

But hey, Donald Trump represented the interests of white people so let’s elect Republicans across the board to keep those Muslims and Mexicans out of my state.

The only way to fight this is going to be at the state election level. If people are really that angry about everything that is happening both at the state and national levels, then organizing has to happen starting at the local level to retake those state house seats and overturn this legislation and whatever else these awful Iowa Republicans are going to push through in the next two years. It hasn’t worked in Wisconsin, but maybe the combination of state outrages with national outrages will motivate enough people to action. IT’s the only hope.

Hiring Undocumented Workers

[ 98 ] February 7, 2017 |

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Andy Puzder is a terrible human being. He opposes the minimum wage. He is an unreconstructed sexist. He wants to lay off every fast food worker and replace them with machines. He was a leading opponent of the Obama administration’s attempt to hold fast food companies accountable for the franchisees, as well as of every other thing Obama and Tom Perez and David Weil and the rest of that excellent Department of Labor did to make the lives of workers better. He will be an utterly atrocious Secretary of Labor, a right-wing extremist who will seek to take us back to Gilded Age wages and working conditions. I wish for nothing more than the defeat of his nomination to this fascist Cabinet.

But of all the things I will not attack him for, it’s hiring an undocumented worker to clean his house. An undocumented worker is a worker. That worker deserves to be treated with respect. We need to open the borders to ensure that no workers are undocumented and Andy Puzder is not going to do that. For that reason among so many others, I strongly oppose his nomination. But I am highly uncomfortable with a campaign to defeat him based on the fact that he hired an undocumented worker. To me, this keeps the millions of undocumented people behind the curtain, fearful to be found out or caught, when they need to be integrated into society and accepted as the workers and human beings that they are.

Here Comes Right to Work!

[ 43 ] February 7, 2017 |

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The building trades’ romance with Donald Trump is sure to pay off since he will only totally sign any right to leech bill that comes across his desk.

On Wednesday, Republican Reps. Steve King (IA) and Joe Wilson (SC) re-introduced a so-called right-to-work bill that would significantly hamper unions across the country and likely lower wages for all Americans.

Republicans have proposed this kind of legislation before; King introduced a similar bill almost exactly a year ago. But now they may feel emboldened by having an ally in the White House. On the campaign trail, President Trump said he is “100 percent” in favor of right-to-work laws.

No American can be forced to join a union or pay dues that are used for political purposes. But right-to-work laws go further: they repeal the requirement that all employees in a unionized workplace must pay dues to the union, given that it bargains on behalf of all workers — and, therefore, the benefits of those negotiations flow to everyone. Without that requirement in place, critics of these laws argue, they create a free rider problem: Employees can refuse to pay dues while still reaping the benefits of higher wages or more generous benefits negotiated by the union — including having the union take up a grievance on their behalf, which can be costly.

That can significantly hobble unions’ finances, given that they still have to do the same work as before but with less money, making it more difficult for them to operate and organize more workers.

So far, 27 states have gone right-to-work. And in those states, workers are much less likely to be in a union: Those in non-right-to-work states are about two-and-a-half times more likely to be in one or protected by a union contract.

Research has found that this has a serious impact on everyone’s wages, even those not in unionized workplaces. According to a paper from the Economic Policy Institute, wages in right-to-work states were 3.1 percent lower as of 2012 than in those without these laws, even when controlling for a variety of factors. That translates into a loss of more than $1,500 a year for an individual full-time worker.

Unfortunately, for huge sections of the white working class, their interests as whites are more prominent and meaningful than their interests as workers. But at least we don’t have the candidate of Goldman Sachs in the White House! Meanwhile, Missouri became the 28th right to leech state just yesterday. The only thing standing in the way of national right to leech is the Senate filibuster. And you probably feel more confident about the future of that than I do.

Trump and the Labor Department

[ 18 ] February 7, 2017 |

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Tom Perez was probably the most effective Secretary of Labor since Frances Perkins. The Department of Labor was unusually integral to promoting a liberal agenda in Obama’s second term. The skies seemed the limit for what might be done. But then the fascist won. To say the least, the culture of the DOL is very depressed right now.

In fact, it could impede the department’s ability to carry out its investigatory duties. Right now—before the freeze has taken its toll—a couple thousand Labor Department investigators are charged with enforcing the laws on wages, pensions and workplace safety on behalf of more than 100 million workers. At the current level of staffing, Lu says, the frequency with which an OSHA investigator is likely to show up at your workplace is probably once every 100 years. “It compromises the safety of workers, compromises workers getting wages,” Lu says. “That’s what I’m concerned about.”

The future of workplace safety looms large in the Obama alums’ concerns. “When OSHA issues a regulation, there’s always controversy and employers who say, ‘we can’t do this.’ And then inevitably they look at the regulation and say, ‘we can do this,’” says Obama’s OSHA director David Michaels. “When OSHA was in process of rulemaking protecting workers in hospitals from blood-borne pathogens, dentists told us that they wouldn’t be able to practice dentistry if they had to wear gloves. How many dentists work without gloves now? Americans have forgotten that the reason there are glove containers in every doctor office is because OSHA requires it. We would never want to go back to that earlier period.”

FURTHERMORE, rumors are swirling about whether parts of the department might just be abolished altogether. A policy proposal from the Heritage Foundation, which has close ties to White House officials, calls for repealing the overtime and conflict-of-interest rules, rolling back Weil’s efforts to root out misclassification, cutting funding for workforce training programs, and completely abolishing the department’s Women’s Bureau, and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. “The [women’s] bureau was created to examine the challenges that uniquely faced women when they entered the workforce,” the report states. “Today, women make up half of the workforce. The challenges facing female employees are now the challenges facing the workforce as a whole.” (It fails to mention that gender pay and hiring gaps persist across nearly every sector of the economy).

The OFCCP is charged with enforcing racial discrimination laws for federal contractors and ensuring that they meet federal Affirmative Action standards. Under Obama, the agency expanded protections to LGBTQ workers, implemented federal contractor hiring goals for disabled workers, and updated gender discrimination rules. The basic principle of the agency is that federal taxpayer dollars must never be used to discriminate, says former Obama OFCCP director Patricia Shiu. “I am concerned about what approach the Trump administration will take to ensure that people across this country not only have jobs, but good jobs. Jobs that are inclusive and reach out to all stripes and colors,” Shiu says. The Heritage paper claims that because the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces discrimination laws for all employers, the OFCCP is redundant.

In Congress, Republicans are working to repeal Obama’s Fair Pay, Safe Workplaces order that requires federal contractors to disclose past labor law violations, and labor advocates fear that additional orders that required federal contractors to pay workers at least $10.10 an hour and provide paid sick leave could be on the chopping block, too. Despite reports detailing how Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump helped save Obama’s executive order prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination from federal contractors, there’s no such reassurance for the minimum wage or paid sick leave orders The future of the overtime rule, which a federal judge blocked just days before it was supposed to go into effect, is also very much in question. It remains to be seen whether the administration defends the rule in the courts or hangs it out to dry.

But hey, Hillary was the candidate of Goldman Sachs and Trump wouldn’t do what he says he is going to do, right? And I’m sure that the building trades cuddling up to the fascist will totally pay off for them!

Are Factory Jobs Good Jobs?

[ 105 ] February 6, 2017 |

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No, not unless they are backed up with worker power that ensures a safe workplace, good working conditions, and a decent wage and benefits. It took a century of struggle to make that happen in the United States. Even though industrial unions have been largely crushed in this country, the residual effects of those unions are not reversed overnight. So we talk about good factory jobs today, even in nonunion southern states, because they do tend to pay better than a job in Walmart or McDonald’s. But that’s because unions made them that way and the employers can’t completely reverse that overnight. However, they can slowly reverse it and that brings us to this horrible story out of Alabama, where a dead worker is a window into how everything that made those jobs good is disappearing.

On June 18 2016 — a Saturday — a robot that Elsea was overseeing at the Ajin USA auto parts plant in Cusseta, Alabama, stopped moving. She and three colleagues tried to get it going, stepping inside the cage designed to protect workers from the machine, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. When the robot restarted abruptly, Elsea was crushed. She died the next day when she was taken off a life-support machine, with her mother, Angel Ogle, at her side. After an investigation, Osha concluded that the accident that killed Elsea was preventable.

The life and death of Regina Elsea points to a national predicament as President Trump seeks to “make America great again” by increasing industrial employment. With automation on the rise and unionisation on the decline, manufacturing jobs no longer guarantee a secure middle-class life as they often did in the past. Much of the new work is low paid and temporary. Staffing agencies sometimes supply factories with workers who have little training or experience — and who can quickly find themselves in harm’s way.

Elsea’s factory status was indicated by the colour of her clothing. Although she worked at Ajin, a Korean parts maker that supplies Hyundai and Kia and is Chambers County’s largest private employer, Elsea was not an Ajin employee. She wore the blue shirt of Alliance Total Solutions, which along with another labour agency, Joynus Staffing, provides roughly 250 of the nearly 800 workers at the plant.

Starting in early 2016, Elsea worked Mondays to Fridays, her family says. But the demands increased. In her last weeks, she worked 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, hoping to qualify for a full-time position and an hourly wage of about $12. The only respites were a half-hour for lunch and sometimes an eight-hour shift on Sundays. Otherwise, she was on her feet all day. “She was always tired,” says her mother, who lives near the parts plant. “She would come over here and take her shoes off and I would rub her feet. She said her feet hurt.”

Elsea’s death came less than a year after David Michaels, the assistant US labour secretary for Osha, warned Hyundai and Kia officials during a 2015 visit to Korea about hazardous conditions at their suppliers. Osha records show that accidents at Hyundai and Kia parts makers in Alabama and Georgia in 2015 and 2016 resulted in 12 amputations — one of a worker’s foot, the rest involving all or parts of fingers.

In December, Osha levied a $2.5m penalty against Ajin, accusing it of 23 violations of federal safety rules, most of them “wilful”, in Elsea’s accident. Osha alleged that Ajin failed to put in place the proper controls to prevent machinery from starting up while being serviced or when workers entered robotic cells. Elsea’s family has also filed suit, seeking damages from Ajin and Joynus.

This is the type of job that Trump talks about when he goes MAGA. These aren’t good jobs. They are terrible jobs. They are also the only even halfway decent jobs in the rural South. Because of capital mobility and the inability of unions to organize southern industrial plants (which may be changing but we will see), these jobs are unsafe and they are getting worse, not better. The lack of any real industrial policy in the United States for a half-century combined with the desperation of American blue-collar workers to take anything they can get these days contributes to this situation. There aren’t any easy answers either except to fine the living hell out the suppliers, the subcontractors, and the auto plants who buy supplies from these factories. Of course, that’s not going to Make America Great Again so you can forget that for the next 4 years.

But we need to remember is that there is nothing inherently good about a factory job. What makes any job a “good” job is a union or at least competition with unionized workplaces. Whether it is McDonald’s or Kia suppliers, only a union can protect workers. Promoting union workplaces needs to be the left’s primary goal, not creating specific types of jobs except in areas that already having a union presence that would make their creation automatically a pretty good job.

A General Strike?

[ 56 ] February 6, 2017 |

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There’s been a lot of talk on the left about a general strike in the last 2 weeks. Color me extremely skeptical. It has seemed to me that this is being pushed by people who want to shut shit down and, well, that’s kind of it. I haven’t seen any convincing discussion of tactics or goals and it seems completely disconnected from where the actual working class is in this country. Given where we are at and what we are facing, I am open to the possibility of nearly any tactics, but this doesn’t make much sense to me. If by general strike we mean a bunch of protestors shutting down American’s transportation network and forcing mass arrests, then that’s one thing. If we mean actual workers walking off their jobs, then I think this is totally disconnected from reality. So let me wholeheartedly endorse this Alex Gourevitch essay debunking the idea. As he points out, the history of massive worker resistance in this country has led to arrests, deaths, and repression much more than it has liberation. In fact, that’s really the story of why the American labor movement is so tepid compared to other similar nations–employers and the state generally haven’t combined to bust heads in Europe to nearly the extent as in the U.S. If this is an actual goal, there needs to be A LOT of work done ahead of time. Gourevitch:

In the past, workers stayed out on those strikes, even fighting the state, in part because of dense, historically developed, cultures of solidarity; established traditions of militancy; organized, if not always recognized, unions; and long connections with left-wing organizers. These days, the appetite for fighting the state is next to nil, there is no tested public sympathy for labor actions, and there are no clear organizations standing ready to lead.

If you’re going to ask people not just to risk losing their jobs but potentially face the armed apparatus of the state, there had better be preparation, leadership, and some evident readiness for mass labor actions.

Not to mention, there had better be a recognizable goal. But what is the point of the proposed general strike? To say down with Trump? What, so we can have Pence?

Or is the point just a generalized ‘No’? A massive expression of discontent? None of the significant costs of a general strike are worth it if it’s just a grand gesture of refusal.

On one version, the point of the strike is to affirm a grab-bag of demands: no to the immigration ban, yes to universal health care, no to pipelines, no to global gag rule and, inexplicably, a final demand that Trump reveal his tax returns. These demands show no evidence of thinking about what the immediate interests of workers might actually be – no mention of proposed national right-to-work legislation, $15 minimum wage demands, or even Trump’s terrible Labor Secretary pick. Trump’s nationalist and deeply inegalitarian economic ‘plan’ at least acknowledges the need to address bad employment prospects and stagnant wages.

It would be reasonable for workers to dismiss the call for a general strike. It looks like they are being asked to be actors in someone else’s drama, by people who just cottoned on to the fact that things are shitty out there.

Moreover, even moderately effective general strikes don’t emerge, willy-nilly, like miraculous interventions into national life. They are intensifications and radicalizations of already existing patterns of resistance by the working class. This demand for a general strike looks less like that intensification and more like an attempt to leapfrog all the hard, long-term political work that goes before.

At least some of those arguing for the general strike seem to sense that there is an element of bad faith here. For instance, Francine Prose added the qualification, which I have seen repeated in a number of places, that only those “who can do so without being fired” should go on strike. This must be the first time someone called for a general strike but exempted most of the working class.

Believe me, I’d love to see a real general strike, a serious attempt at restructuring society, not just lopping the head off the Republican hydra. But there is no royal road to revolution, or even to a true mass movement for social change.

Yes. Also, yes.

The Building Trades

[ 60 ] February 6, 2017 |

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I was very unhappy when the building trades met with Trump and then gloated about the reopening of the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines. So I wrote about it in The New Republic. Basically, the building trades are aligning with the wrong side on issues for the millionth time and their hostility to the rest of the left means no one will care when Trump signs off on eliminating the Davis-Bacon Act. I also place this in the context of how the rise of industrial unions was how the labor movement came to represent the real interests of all working people and how their decimation due to capital mobility means that the building trades once again have outsized power in the labor movement. An excerpt.

Corporations regained their hold over the nation’s politics by decimating the industrial unions. They closed factories, busted unions, and moved jobs overseas.The United Auto Workers is a shell of its former self. The United Steelworkers has tried organizing in different fields, but its numbers have also fallen precipitously. The United Food and Commercial Workers, the descendant of the CIO-affiliated United Packinghouse Workers, has decent clout with some grocery chains, but has been unable to penetrate Walmart and the other retailers that have transformed the food industry. Most of the old industrial unions—the United Rubber Workers, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, and so many others—are gone, along with the jobs.

The broad-based social policies these unions fought for are now in the process of being repealed by an emboldened Republican Party. Public sector unions such as SEIU and AFSCME have filled some of that political vacuum, fighting for health care, higher minimum wages, and other economic justice programs. But the public sector unions are incredibly diverse, ranging from professors to home health care workers. They lack the common working class culture that would be needed to replicate the mass movements of the New Deal era.

As a result, the building trades once again hold an outsized amount of power within the labor movement. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is the most politically progressive labor federation leader in American history, with the possible exception of Reuther, but he is beholden to his constituent unions when shaping policy. He cannot take a strong stand in support of protesters stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline without alienating powerful people like McGarvey and O’Sullivan.

In Rhode Island, where I live, there is currently a major political battle over the siting of a power plant that is to use fracked natural gas and diesel oil. The state’s environmental community has come out in force against this project, urging the state to adopt a clean energy future. LIUNA has not only vigorously supported the project, but its members have also stood outside meetings and openly jeered environmentalists. After the meeting with Trump, labor journalist Cole Stangler recalled a previous conversation in which he asked McGarvey if he was concerned about the environmental impact of fracking. McGarvey said no, and Stangler could hear laughter in the background at the question.

But the trade unions seem incapable of realizing that the Trump administration is not their friend. In the meeting with Trump, they asked him to pledge not to repeal the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act. This law requires the federal government to pay contractors a “locally prevailing wage,” as determined by the Department of Labor. It serves to ensure that those workers building American infrastructure are paid a fair wage. Republicans dislike it and Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona has introduced a bill to overturn the law. Trump will almost certainly sign this bill. Trump has routinely refused to pay the contractors he has hired, and has never supported unions except when they can help him. Sadly, the building trades believe that supporting Trump’s projects will pay off for them.

The repeal of Davis-Bacon will be sad. It will hurt workers and hurt unions. On the other hand, what have the building trades ever done for any other progressive group? With some exceptions, the trades have failed to understand the value of solidarity. In doing so, they are facing a situation in which they will have few allies in the fight to keep Davis-Bacon in place. Their short-sightedness is even greater considering the Muslim ban the Trump administration imposed last week. Any organization not fighting for our most vulnerable residents will not receive support from the left for its own goals.

And yes, it is nice to be at the point in my life where something can make me mad and then I can write about it in a magazine. Perhaps I can start writing New York Times op-eds about ketchup next.

The Government Workers’ Revolt

[ 60 ] February 5, 2017 |

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It’s not only State Department workers revolting against Herr Trump. Labor Department workers are doing the same.

You can now add the Labor Department to the growing list of US government agencies where workers are speaking out against their new leadership.

Politico’s “Morning Shift” newsletter reports today that “current and former” Labor Department employees are circulating and adding their names to an open letter asking the Senate not to confirm Andrew Puzder as Labor Secretary. (It’s unclear how many signatures the letter has at this point.) Puzder, you may recall, is coming directly from a position as the CEO of Hardees and Carl’s Jr., where he became famous for speaking out against wage increases and hailing the coming of automation that would reduce his own human work force. Now, the very people he would supervise if he gets confirmed are speaking out against his business practices, his treatment of his own employees, and even his personal conduct.

Puzder is a truly reprehensible human being, whose nomination may legitimately be in doubt given how slow he has gone in preparing even basic records to pass on to Congress and his reputed dissatisfaction with having to go through a confirmation procedure. But if he is confirmed, I’m sure he and the rest of this New Gilded Age crew will seek to sweep out the Labor Department and replace these people with cronies and hacks. Of course, the people signing the letter see the writing on the wall and evidently are going to go out with principles instead of meekly. And this kind of internal pushback is great and a critical part of the larger protest over the rise of fascism.

That’s an open act of insubordination that will likely get all these people fired, as the Trump administration joins the rest of the Republican Party in legalizing corruption and turning the Pendleton Civil Service Act moot.

The State of the Unions

[ 12 ] January 27, 2017 |

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Predictably terrible! The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released its annual report on union density. And who knows, maybe for the last time as the Trump administration continues its war on information. Anyway, the Center for Economic Policy and Research put together a report summarizing it. And union density continues to decline, sometimes by up to 2 percent in some states. Obama’s labor record as far as within the Department of Labor was pretty solid, but all of that meant nearly nothing for actually organizing unions. But hey, Trump named a new NLRB chair and I’m sure that will help!

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